Mark Driscoll recently caused another brouhaha with his views about gender roles. The short version of this latest controversy is that he compared nagging wives to water torture. You can watch the offending segment here.
But are we really surprised by this sort of thing from Driscoll? By now it should seem par for the course: we know where he stands on these issues, we know that he states his positions in less-than-eloquent ways, we know he characterizes the positions of his opponents in less-than-charitable terms and we know that none of this is likely to change.
But in the rush to point out yet another misogynistic statement from Driscoll, a perhaps even more troubling statement from him was overlooked. In the opening of his sermon on Ephesians 5.22−33 and the subject of wives submitting to their husbands, Driscoll says:
“What does that mean in the Greek, Pastor Mark?” You can always tell a rebellious evangelical. They do word studies. They try to go to the Greek and figure out if it perhaps means something else. I’ll just read, OK.
Really? Rebellious evangelicals do word studies? And submissive evangelicals don’t? They just meekly accept the “plain meaning” of the text? So if I choose to dig deeper into the Bible, to seek out the original meaning of Greek and Hebrew words, to study the grammar and context and culture of a passage — if I question assumptions and I really study the Bible — then I’m rebellious? In Driscoll’s world I must be: I’ve chosen to think for myself and in doing so I’ve stepped out from under the authority God, the authority of the Church and, worst of all, the authority of Pastor Mark.
But wait a minute, doesn’t Driscoll have a degree in exegetical theology from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon? Yes, he does, but Western isn’t exactly recognized for a robust emphasis on the Biblical languages. In fact, it seems that at Western, one can get an M.A. in exegetical theology without learning Greek or Hebrew at all! It’s hardly surprising given Driscoll’s education, background and ministry “successes” that intellectual engagement with Biblical and theological issues is downplayed and discouraged.
What’s really going on in Driscoll’s statement is a flippant dismissal of all discussions regarding the meanings of κεφαλή (head) and ὑποτάσσω (to submit) — meanings upon which much of the egalitarian/complimentarian debate hinges. If you’re going to teach on a controversial passage that has wide-reaching implications for how we lead our lives as Christians today, shouldn’t you want to understand and convey the exegetical details of that passage? Driscoll not only doesn’t want to explore the grammar and context of this passage, he goes so far as to encourage you not to do so yourself!
Ironically, ὑποτάσσω may mean something far worse than Driscoll would lead you to believe. Likewise, the discussions regarding the precise meaning of κεφαλή and the context and culture of the first-century Greco-Roman world conveyed in Ephesians are also fascinating and complex and are far from the black-and-white simplicity Driscoll espouses. As with much of the Bible, simply saying “I’ll just read, OK” does little to elucidate the critical issues at hand.
The anti-intellectualism that Driscoll encourages is destroying the church. Asking Christians to abrogate the life of the mind in favor of blind “submission” to a particular doctrine — especially when that doctrine is itself divisive and destructive — is tantamount to forming a cult: don’t think for yourself, don’t investigate what I’m about to say, just accept what I’m going to tell you because it’s in the Bible and the Bible is God’s Word. Is that the message of Christianity? Is that what Christ asks us to do in order to follow him?
Anytime someone encourages you to not investigate, to not dig deeper, to not seek out the truth, that’s a sure sign they’re hiding something and that the only means they have for retaining their power is to convince you to not question that power. The only antidote to such an abuse of power is truth. Fortunately, Christianity has something to say about truth: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8.32).